Mind maps... what's that?
Mind maps [I1] [F1] [ES1] were initially introduced in the late '60s as an innovative method for note-taking, but after further study they were recognized by the scientific community as a lot more than that: a technique for representing the way knowledge is both stored and generated, based on radiant thinking [I2] [F2] [ES2], a non linear, associative process by which the brain generates and stores ideas. Tony Buzan [E1][F3], the psychologist who invented mind mapping, compares a mind map to a city map in his The Ultimate Book of Mind Maps,Thorsons, 2005. He says that "the centre of your Mind Map is like the centre of the city. It represents your most important idea. The main roads leading from the centre represent the main thoughts in your thinking process; the secondary roads represent your secondary thoughts, and so on. Special images or shapes can represent sites of interest or particularly interesting ideas". So, a mind map is first of all a way of representing the information you possess about a subject, a bird's eye view of your personal "landscape" around a specific area. Tony Buzan continues with his parallel and shows that, watching the map you not only get a general view of what is there, but you can also see where you are, plan where to go next, keep record of where you have been, and, most interesting of all, you can see new routes. You can also understand what areas of the city are empty and need "populating" (difficult, blank areas you need to analyse more closely), and you can easily identify what key choices you need to make. At the same time, all these important data will be stored in this one cluster of relevant interconnected images, readily available in one go, and meaningful to you, who have personally chosen them to represent your thoughts, coloured them as your feelings and tastes suggested and given them the proportions and order you have thought best.
Mind maps are very different to concept maps [E2] [F4] [I3][ES3] with which they are largely mixed up. Concept maps were devised by J. Novack and are closely related to Ausubel's theory of meaningful learning [I4] [F5] [ES4]. They are based on a logic of connection instead of association, they do not radiate from a central idea, they develop from top to bottom, from general to particular; the relationships between concepts are rigidly oriented and made explicit through solid prepositions, so words take up the essential place of images. Professor Marco Guastavigna warns that although some scholars (and software producers) claim one method is superior to the other, they should in fact be integrated along the learning activity, as mind maps best suit initial stages such as activating and recording the learners' prior knowledge of a subject, whereas concept maps can prove useful to represent more systematic, highly structured and mature knowledge.
A concept map from http://qsad.bu.edu/